ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – Paradise has treated the Tarleton men’s basketball team well.
After a commanding win over perennial power Belmont on Friday in the opening round of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, the Texans had an even more dominant performance against Boston College on Sunday night in the semifinals, 70-54 the final.
Tarleton (3-1, 0-0 WAC) toppled the ACC’s Boston College Eagles (3-2, 0-0 ACC) for the Texans’ first win over a Power Five program in team history, winning the semifinals match up to advance to the Paradise Jam Championship Game.
“What a great win for Tarleton and the young men who are providing effort by playing for each other and this program,” head coach Billy Gillispie said. “This is a lot of fun for us all right now. These guys believe in one another. Thanks to the Tarleton faithful for following us. We have a great group here, and I just received over 200 texts after tonight’s win, which I shared with the players. Two down, one to go!”
The Texans will play in the Paradise Jam title game on Monday night against a 4-0 Drake program who beat Wyoming on Sunday 61-56. The championship game will be broadcast at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN 3.
“Drake is a fantastic team that has great players, great tradition, is extremely well coached and determined,” Gillispie said. “It will be another really difficult challenge for our team, but we we’ll for sure give it the ole Tarleton try.”
As for Sunday’s game, the Texans took control early and never let up. By the second media timeout, Tarleton was already up 14-5 thanks to a 12-0 run, and took the first double-digit lead of the game less than nine minutes in.
The Texans forced Boston College to shoot just 7-of-19 (.368) in the first half and didn’t allow a single three-point make, taking a 16-point lead, 35-19, into the break. The 19 points for Boston College marked the Eagles’ fewest amount of points in the first half in their last 27 games.
Whatever adjustments the Eagles made at halftime, the Texans had answers for, with Tarleton not giving up anything to start. Their 16-point lead built as high as 21 with under 15 minutes to play, and Tarleton led by double figures the entire second half, a total of 30:28 out of the 40 minutes played throughout the contest.
Freddy Hicks finished with a game-high 21 points, making that back-to-back 20+ point performances since he returned on Friday. He made 6-of-10 from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line, adding six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Over the course of his first two games, he’s went to the free throw line 40 times, making 26 from the stripe.
Shakur Daniel did his usual thing, dropping 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, adding two rebounds. Off the bench, Lue Williams made three of Tarleton’s four three-pointers on the night, going for 14 points (5-11 FG, 3-5 3PT) and four rebounds. Jakorie Smith (eight points, five rebounds, two steals) and Tiger Booker (seven points, 5-5 FT) also made large impacts throughout the night.
Tarleton stayed efficient offensively, making 23-of-45 (.511) from the field. That’s the third straight game Tarleton has shot 50 percent or better, their longest stretch since Feb. 6-19, 2021. That’s 16 straight wins for the Texans when shooting 50 percent or better, dating back to 2019-20.
Of course, Tarleton prides itself defensively, and had another standout game on that side of the floor once again. The Texans forced the Eagles to a season-low 54 points and a season-high 20 turnovers, their most since 2020-21. The 20 forced turnovers for Tarleton makes it four straight games of 20+ takeaways to start their season, the longest such stretch by the program in at least the last 10 years. The Texans entered the game ranked second in the entire nation in steals per game at 14.0, and tied-fourth in turnovers forced per game at 23.3.
Tarleton’s final day in paradise is Monday night for the Paradise Jam Championship Game at 7 p.m. CT. Following the title bout, the Texans will next play at Wichita State on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.